Thoughts from the ISPS international conference

I am in New York participating at the ISPS international conference held at Coopers Square. As usual the most important during events like this is to catch up with people from all over the world. And of course to attend some presentations and workshops. Hanna, a colleague of mine will present on Saturday the anthology Nine Lives which consists of stories from some of the people who have been part of our shared work for a time in their lives. It gives an idea about the variety and the contradictions which come with being a human. The stories tell about the importance of someone being there, someone who challenges, someone who opens both heart and home for a stranger. It also tells about the importance of trust, dignity, pride, cooperation, belonging, but also how hard it is at times to trust and to belong. And therefore why it is absolutely essential with living and dynamic organizations where people have the right but also a responsibility to participate.

Participation is essential, and there are many ideas and theories about how to create space for participation to grow. Yesterday I met some amazing people who have created a beautiful and strong   organization during more than 30 years. It started with four people who decided to try to make a change – to make the world a bit better. It was the mission they had and it is still the mission for the now very big organization which grew and extend their network day by day. Hanna and I met Lois Holzman and Dan Friedman, some of the founder yesterday afternoon and we were both very touched the way they talked about their work but above all by their mission shown in deeds. They told about developing groups of cops who play together with “young angry men”. Poor kids cooperating with business men to make a connection between their very different life conditions. Theatre projects built on voluntary workers in collaboration with professional actors and dancers. Big social therapy groups including people from different backgrounds, but with a kind of the same desire in life. Voluntary workers who spend hours and hours to make things happen.

Meeting Lois and Dan strengthened my desire and wish to extend the therapeutic room, to make it available for many people, to find ways to engage with both so called ordinary people and professionals of different kinds. To find out together with others the not yet known. To let performance and art inspire as also philosophy and nature To invite people of different kinds to a shared space to develop knowledge important for all of. Our planned Film Festival Driving Us Crazy is such a space, a place where people will meet each other and where dreams may transform to concrete plans. As happened in East Side Institute. As hopefully is the aim with big conferences like the ISPS one. As has a chance to happen when people get together and find their driving force, skills and determination to make a change.

Driving Us Crazy: A Festival About Madness in Society, and in All of Us

“We are who we are: where we were born, who we were born as, how we were raised. We’re kind of stuck inside that person, and the purpose of civilization and growth is to be able to reach out and empathize a little bit with other people. And for me, the movies are like a machine that generates empathy. It lets you understand a little bit more about different hopes, aspirations, dreams and fears. It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us.” — Roger Ebert

I am proud and happy to announce that our webpage DrivingUsCrazy has been launched. It will help us to get the word out about the international film festival taking place in Gothenburg, 16-18 October, 2015, and also to highlight the issue of madness every day until then — and hopefully for many days afterwards.

Hanna, a dear colleague of mine, has done a great job and she tells me every second hour how fast the message is spreading. And how many people who are dedicated to the mission to find alternatives to the – as yet — dominant medical model within psychiatry. A model which has spread also to schools, to social services, and which must be discussed and questioned before it is too late.

We have a vision of making a shift in our country; a hope that the film festival will be a turning point. Movies, researchers, people with own lived experience and artists from many contexts and countries will tell another story than the one told by traditional psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry. We are determined to make space for other “truths.” We want to make room for people to tell their personal history: To extend the phenomenon called evidence-based knowledge.

For far too long time the discussion and the so-called knowledge have been narrow and limited. Even though a lot of people know there is another “truth” than the common one it has been very difficult to get the word out. Far too many times people have been told to shut their mouths. Far too many times we have been told that we exaggerate – that we are too emotional.

But, after all, human life is about emotions. It is not either this or that; it is about both, and… It is far too beautiful and complex to be expressed in a simple diagnostic term, and it far too dangerous for the dilemma to be “solved” by medications, especially when we still have no clue about how — or if — they work in the long term.

Movies touch people, make us feel, make the full range come out; the sadness, but also the hope and the strength. We hope for three strong and powerful days and nights and we welcome you to join us.

Extending experience and knowledge

I have just finished a long Skype conversation with a dear colleague of mine working far away during conditions which differ a lot from those I am used to here in Sweden. In her country people pay no taxes, there is no common welfare, poor children are living on the streets, education is not for free, people are living in shelters at the same time as others live in big private houses.

We met eight years ago through late Tom Andersen who worked as a family therapist and doctor in social medicine in the the very north of Norway. Tom had met my dear colleague during a trip to South America when he decided to try to create an exchange between therapists from the south with therapists from the north. I am very grateful he did, and I can hardly imagine how life and work would have been for me if I had not been involved in this exchange. Since even though poor children don´t live on the streets in Sweden and even though people pay taxes for a common welfare there are some big challenges also in our society about how to create space which includes people rather than exclude, and how to give voice to experiences beyond the therapeutic and psychiatric state.

When extending perspectives and contexts also personal knowledge and experience get extended. When opening the physical space also one´s mind get more opened. It is not done without efforts and it takes some courage. It might happen that doubt occur in such a way that one decide to withdraw. It might be that the conflict between the so far known and the not yet known creates a loneliness which is too scary.

Still for some of us there is no option. The conversation today reminded me about that- there are situations in life as in work where we have no options. At least if the aim is to make a change. Despite big differences between our countries my colleague and I have also a lot in common; visions about how to create space for people who need support for a time in their life, the need for solidarity, the importance of extending therapeutic knowledge to make it available for more than an exclusive group.  And to never ever give up the idea about each person´s right to our own voice.